7 Ways to Celebrate Memorial Day (Respectfully)

7 Ways to Celebrate Memorial Day (Respectfully)

by Tahj Mayes, May 17, 2016

Memorial Day honors those who have died serving in the U.S Armed Forces. It is a day of mourning–and some feel that meaningful aspect is lost in the holiday mindset surrounding this day.

If you are hosting a Memorial Day party, it’s easy to weave in meaningful ways for honoring our fallen heroes. It’s helpful to simply be mindful that loss is the reason for the day and that it might be affecting those you love especially on this day.

For many people, this Memorial Day will be tough. When the world is partying and you are grieving, it is tough to light a sparkler and eat barbecue and smile like nothing is wrong. So, if that’s you or someone you know, don’t try to fix it or soothe it.

Cookouts, camping, having the family/friends over–these are ways Americans celebrate Memorial Day and the freedoms we are thankful for. Surrounding ourselves with good company is one of the best ways to get through life, even the really tough days.

Here are 7 ways to celebrate memorial day with the whole family (or not) by remembering the why.


1) Remember out  loud

If you knew a fallen service member, then remember something about them out loud to someone. Memories are both honoring and healing–even if they hurt at the same time.

Even if you didn’t know the person or know them well enough to tell a specific memory, tell their family/friends simply that you a remembering them today. You don’t have to say anything more, and in fact, less is often more. A simple, “Thinking about Pat today,” will suffice.

2) Take a moment of silence

The national moment of silence for Memorial Day is 3 PM, local time. Pause for one minute to honor all those who gave their lives.

3) Music to remember

Play Taps or God Bless the U.S.A or whatever song or collection of music gets your patriotic blood pumping.

4) Make a Toast

What I love about toasts is that they are given in all kinds of ceremonies for all kinds of reasons in all kinds of cultures. I love that kids of all ages can participate and that toasts encourage community.

Whatever you are drinking, raise your glass in honor and in memory. List off names of those you knew and loved. Ask your guests to call out names and allow everyone the space and time to remember them out loud.


red poppy poem for ways to celebrate memorial day

5) Put fresh flowers on the graves of fallen soldiers in your local cemetery.

This is a beautiful way to get outside of ourselves and teach our kids to think of others. Originally, Memorial Day was called Decoration Day as Americans decorated the graves of service men and women. (For collective information on the origin of Memorial Day, check out the Snopes article.

Do this on the Sunday before Memorial Day if your Monday is booked or May 30th in the years that date is not also the last Monday in May.

6) Make gravestone etchings.

You remember rubbing a pencil over a textured surface? This can be done on gravestones and used to remember the reason for Memorial Day. Spending a few minutes doing this means you are directing energy and thoughts out there for that person. It doesn’t matter if anyone knows about it.

Use them on tables as placemats or decor if you’re hosting as a way to remind your guests the reason for this day.

7) Good company + good food

Being mindful of the reason doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate Memorial Day the way America does: with loved ones and good food! For those who love to make beautiful and delicious things: go nuts. Here is one of my favorite images of patriotic food from Saving by Design.

memorial day snack idea

Beautiful flag fruit/dessert idea from Saving by Design.


Remembering the reasons we even celebrate Memorial Day does bring in a certain somber air–and that should be alright. Simply acknowledging that many of our community feel significant loss around this day of honor does wonders. For one, it reminds our veterans and family of fallen and living heroes that their sacrifices are remembered and appreciated.